Thursday, September 13, 2012

International LeatherSIR Contest


I arrived at Amtrak in Oakland at 8:40, on time.  See this post for details on the train trip down and back.  Dragged bags to BART, then a cab from Civic Center to the hotel.  This was the Holiday Inn Golden Gateway, the same hotel that I was at last October for Sundance Stompede and in March for IMsL.

Hooker (Rik Newton-Treadway) was the first person I saw whom I knew, saw him before I even got out of the cab.  I always have an internal poll on that for any of these large events I go to.  I know lots of people here, with a dozen years and more of travelling to these weekend events all over the country, so it’s an open bet who the first one I know will be.

Check-in to the hotel was a mess.  GLPW had arranged for a check to prepay things for both rooms, but the hotel equipment wouldn’t process it.  The bank said there was no problem on their end (so I expect the hotel’s hardware or software was at fault; they probably do far fewer checks today than in years past).  The bank get me the cash, I paid the hotel, and all was well.  Kept myself calm throughout.  Boy Dan and Pope Bacon (and Jeremy on the phone) were stellar throughout.

Our region ended up as number 11 out of 15.  This put our schedule right after lunch for the interviews, which might be good — refreshed judges, not yet food sleepy — and after the intermission for the fantasy on Saturday.  Ruin was still uncomfortable about having time to change between fantasy and finals, despite there being about 30 minutes, so we definitely needed to use our alternate for her role in the fantasy.

The Meet and Greet at Mr. S Leather was fun, but it was difficult to track down each of the judges (at least one did not even get there for the M&G, I think, and one I only met as we were leaving).  It very much felt like “moth and flame”, finding a judge and circling in the near distance until we could come close enough for our own “face time”.  (It was not just Northwest Leatherboy Dan and myself with this, all the title teams were doing it.)  Contest Emcee Graylin Thornton later commented on this on Facebook, how in the desire to get face time with each of the judges, the contestants were largely ignoring everyone else at the event.

A couple of the judges whom I didn’t know before knew me from the blog and other sources, which I hope turned out to be good.  Rob Welcher says that we have met a couple times before (he is a former Seattle titleholder, from years before I moved to town), but I sure don’t recall it (and he’s hot, you’d think I would remember).  I assume one time we met would have been when Dave Lewis died.  Dan Hughes is another whom I should have met all through the late 90s, give that we both lived in the Bay Area (him in San Jose and me in San Jose/Sunnyvale/San Mateo) and attended some of the same events (Santa Clara County Leather contests, Leatherfest X in San Diego).  How did we not know one another?

Dan and I wore leather-themed T’s, some of my CFM Designs shirts (Leatherboy and Shattered Leather Flag).  One of the judges asked about them specifically, which validated wearing them vs. other options we had considered (dress leather with sash, harness, etc.).  The other contestants were in everything from leather T’s to bare chested to sash, the full range.

Intro of contestants and sort-of speeches (not formal stepdowns) from Alan, Nitro, and Luna followed at the hotel, plus more mingling.  I got a little more face time with a couple of the judges (or ass time in one case, showing off the lightning bolts).  As the evening wrapped up, I found myself as the last contestant still hanging around.  This was not because I was desperately looking for more face time with the judges, but because I knew many of the people running the event and was chatting with Randall and Mark and Olivier.

Dan and I headed to the room to ramp down and get some sleep rather than going out.  Cliff finally got in around 1 am, after a loooong wait for the shuttle service to actually bring him to the hotel from Oakland airport.


Fantasy practice was at 9:45.  We started setting up props in the hall and got in the ballroom early and used up our time getting everything situated and adjusted, with one music run through.  All of which was fine and expected, since we have several props.  We would need to practice with our third person on Saturday, since she couldn’t be there on Friday morning.

Interviews were immediately after lunch; things started probably 10 minutes late.  (I know things must have drifted late during the morning, because there were no bathroom breaks scheduled for the judges, just interview after interview.  There’s a recipe for failure!)  With only 8 minutes for each interview, that’s one question per judge, roughly.  Less if you meander.  Can I remember the questions they asked?

  • Patrick Mulcahey: Do you identify as a switch?  (My bio listed colors flagged on both sides.  I don’t use that term myself, and was able to summarize some of what is in this earlier post.)
  • Rob Welcher: Who has made a mark on the Seattle leather scene?  (I name checked Jeff Henness, Dave Lewis, Eric Bonesteel, and included myself due to the Leather Calendar and Chez Poing fisting parties.)
  • Hugh Russell: Do you plan to collar a boy, and if not, how can you mentor in the leather scene?  (Apparently suggested by his boy Kent.  I summarized this blog post.)
  • Mike Zuhl: What is a strength and a weakness of your title boy?  (I got this same question in my practice contest, and used the same answer.  He is very giving of his time and skills, but maybe too giving at times, should put himself first more.)
  • Dan Hughes: How would you advise a boy in the community who wants to play with a man who wants to bareback with him?  (Advise him to research what that means, get him to have an honest conversation with the other guy, and encourage him to be real sure he is aware of the long term implications of such a decision.  But I also cannot take a strict “No, never” line because the world is more complex than that.  This is a hard question to answer at all in a very short time.)
  • Seth Munton: Will I be comfortable travelling to all the places needed during the title year?  (Yes, I already travel to many leather events a year.  I look forward to being able to travel to places I have not gone to before.)
  • Chris Meister: He wanted to know about the “porn videos” I have done, as listed on the bio.  (They are mostly “home videos”, on Xtube and my iPad.  The application does not specify professional porn, so who doesn’t have naughty pics online somewhere?)  I don’t recall if there was a notable question beyond that.
  • Jeffrey Payne: (Writing this six weeks later, I cannot now remember what Jeffrey asked me.  It will probably come to me at some point and I will update the blog post then.)
Some of the questions were right out of my bio or seemed informed by things I have blogged about, or maybe I was just able to successfully predict the topics with my blog posts (as hoped for).

(In discussions later on with Hugh, who is from Seattle, he told me he almost asked me about my statement that “Leather is life, not religion” from this post, in light of how much religion and ritual entered the leather scene in the 1990s, but he decided that it was not a question that could be answered well in the short window we had.)

With 37 contestants — although nothing but a stage intro for the bootblacks on Friday — the four hours of the Friday contest was a huge amount of hurry up and wait.  Wrangling that many contestants is like herding cats, so we all had to stay in the dressing room rather than getting to see each others’ speeches and jock portions, unfortunately.  They need close-circuit TV or something!

My speech went very well, I thought.  I did not feel rushed, and my practice times had been around the 1:40 mark, so little chance of being dinged points for going over (recorded time was 1:38, according to the score sheets).  Crowd reaction occurred in the expected places.  The text is posted here; the thrust was showing personal growth over the past year in accepting the identity of a Sir, based on an interview question from Sir Alan at the regional contest.  I hit all the notes that judges and the audience usually want you to hit (that’s an advantage of competing many times before, you learn these things), and Alan gave me a big grinning thumbs up as I came off the stage, which meant a lot.

(If a judge didn’t like the speech content, I imagine it would be because they want people who grow from already identifying as a Sir, rather than growing to that place and thus implying some of the title year being “wasted” in getting to where you should have started it from.)

The jock strap portion went fine.  I was actually wearing a rubber jock — a prototype from Nasty Pig that they never went forward with — but it is doubtful the judges could tell, and with rubber being prominent in my profile, even if they could tell, it should have been fine.  I also wore red and black Nasty Pig armbands and my lace-up lineman boots with red socks.  I did my best to strut the stage well, cock first, and show off the lightning bolt tats.  Graylin even commented on them when I left the stage.

(If a judge didn’t like my look here, I can’t imagine it would be because I didn’t present the “comfortable in his skin” air they typically want.  Trying to lead with my crotch might have given me an odd walk; I should have practiced that more.  Also, the lineman boots are matte black while there is a shine to the jock which might have been better matched by the Chippewa boots I left at home.)

Earlier in the day, had met two guys  from Atlanta and went with them and Cliff to play in their room, which eventually also included one of the other contestants and another buddy Cliff and I know, a past IML contestant.  I had a great time tying one of the guys up and then fisting both him and one of the others — a chariot race at one point — but I eventually had to call it quits for myself about 1:15, before I fell asleep, hand in ass.


Saturday started ugh-early with a “My Title Year” session from the outgoing titleholders, a chance to brain dump from them on all the things expected and unexpected we would face, including things like regional LSb events overlapping your own produced ones, grabbing the wrong luggage, and deaths in the family.

After lunch, the silent auction closed, leaving me with two bottles of vodka, a harness for Cliff, and a new uniform shirt and pair of pants.  The shirt fits great, but I think the pants are too tight.  I may need to repackage them for a future fundraiser.  (Or not.  I have lost another few pounds since ILSb due to changing my lunch eating habits and while tight, the pants are wearable, and I finally have ones I can wear inside my Chippewas.)

Demos occurred in the early afternoon.  We had been told we needed only one, but at the event we suddenly had to have one for each of us.  Eep!  The leather pride flag duct tape hood we had planned became the Boy demo (demonstrating submission and patience).  (Credit where it is due: Karen Yew taught the hood at Northwest Sash Bash, but I’ve since made it my own and done it for a couple demos.  We gave the removed hood to Bill Hoeppner, so he could remember the one time all weekend that Dan had been quiet.  )  I got Ruin and Cliff to do leather West Coast Swing dancing with me for the other; her in a rope harness and him in a leather one.  (Ruin popped out of the early non-judged part of the bootblacking to help with this.)  The dance demo confused many people — judge Seth Munton asked if I danced in the dungeon — but it was intended to demo envelope-pushing play in public, stuff we actually do.  Ostensibly non-judged events, these did give the chance to show some of the things I like to do.

(I am told that during the new titleholder orientation on Sunday, Randall Kinnear called out the dance demo as something he was pleased to see, demonstrating the breadth of stuff the contestants had for the demos.)

We also finally connected with our fantasy’s third person (filling in the role written for Ruin), Ms. San Francisco Leather Miss Bethie Bee, who had been a judge with me at Alameda County Leather.  We showed her the video and talked things through, then blocked it out and ran through it once on a table in the hallway.

Dan and I headed to the nearby Whole Foods Market for sandwiches for dinner.  On the way back, some driver had misjudged the traffic — or just been greedy/stupid and ended up stranded in the middle of the intersection of Van Ness and California, blocking both lanes of California from moving at all.  So what did drivers do?  Honked and honked and honked.  What purpose does that serve?  If there is someone paying attention to their cell phone when the light changes and needs a nudge, the first honk or two will do the job.  If traffic still isn’t moving, obviously it is because traffic can’t move, and honking won’t help that.  Okay, I understand the stress relief that can come from a horn honk.  Great: I’ll grant the first five or six normal-length honks as valid.  After that, though, your honk is just adding to the noise and making things worse, and leaning on your horn to prolong the honk only exacerbates that further.

The contest started at 5 pm, so we were backstage at 4 pm, but other than intros, Dan and I didn’t go on until 7:10 or so, until after the intermission.  Again, we couldn’t see Ruin’s speech, nor could she see the fantasy.

One thing I noticed while in the dressing room on Saturday night (and on Friday) was that some of the contestants (Sir, Boy, and Bootblack — yes, I capitalize “Boy” as a title, unless an individual wants me to lowercase it for him personally; “Boy” is as valid a title prefix as any and it is a disservice to those who don’t want to be seen as subs to forcibly take away the capital letter without asking) were very sociable and some were very private or quiet.  Some of the contestants I got to know fairly well — mostly the ones numerically grouped near our number, but not all of those — and some I never had but the briefest interactions with all weekend.  Some simply sat by themselves (or with their title team) off to the side, never making any social overtures of their own.

I noticed this as well on Thursday and Friday nights, after the events, and Saturday during the day: there were a few of the contestants (maybe a third) who were actively social outside the requirements of the contest, but a number of them vanished completely.  Is this just how they are as people, or did they do it on advice (or control) from their producers, keeping them sequestered to control any “mistakes” that might be made?  Hard to say.

I found this somewhat peculiar, and it marked one place that, to me, is missed in the weekend judging.  In theory, you want a titleholder who is gregarious and comfortable in social settings, engaging with everyone present whether they are a big name titleholder or not.  (See Graylin’s earlier comments.)  The bootblack contestants had an explicit Personal Interactions (or something like that) piece to their contest, specifically circled around the bootblacking activity, where the judges saw and rated how they actually engaged with individuals.  But because the Sir and Boy contestants were sequestered during the contest (and its breaks; no mingling during intermission) and often disappeared outside the contest pieces, and there was no explicit judging piece of this, there would seem to be missed opportunity to deal with some very important skill sets.

(I’m also told that one Sir/Boy pair signed off the contestants Facebook group days after the event.  That certainly smells of intentional social withdrawal, as though they were on that group through the contest only because it was expected, just in case anyone would inspect to see if they were there.)

The fantasy went well enough.  We did a Rocky Horror riff (or if you prefer, a Rocky Horror Riff Raff, heh) — bringing a corpse to life to use for sex — intended to hit Edgeplay theme notes of necrophilia, electrical play, and gender play (since we were using Ruin/Bethie Bee for the creature, completely hidden for much of the piece and fully revealed only near the end).  We also had a cool special effects rig, with a black-light lit sheet and rope light coils with an intensity slider which we could jiggle during the electricity part (which was done with a violet wand).  We had padded the timing of things in a couple places to take up time we had extra of, but apparently padded too much, so when we got to the central electricity bit, we were actually behind the music by a few seconds, but caught up easily enough.  The audience loved it (as I knew they would), and we got the antici-(say it!)-pated call backs, and several people commented that having Dan play with the violet wand on himself was superb.  A couple audience members later said that our fantasy was their favorite, and a very welcome bit of fun in the evening.  (That is, not a YAMTAR fantasy — Yet Another Military Takedown And Rape — where you’ve seen what they are doing time and again in other fantasies over the years, where you may well be marking time until this duo stops hitting and fake-fucking each other so we can get to the next pair’s hitting and fake fucking.  See more on that here.)

(Olivier Pratt posted videos of the fantasies, so we got to see it eventually.  Our fantasy and more commnetary is here.)

Did the judges like the fantasy?  Places they could have disliked things include not grasping that we were hitting Edgeplay notes (no guns, knives, or rape, after all), or seeing us as co-opting the Movies theme assigned to another region (or even the Sci Fi one), or not enough simulated play between Sir and Boy.  I won’t know until we see the scores.  The fantasy was roughly 30% of the points, so it is often a make-or-break point.  I will certainly be bummed if what we did cost me a first or second placement, but what is done is done; we had fun and we felt good about the piece.

When the results came in, Ruin won International Community Bootblack.  (That’s two of the three big bootblack titles in the Northwest now!)

Neither Dan nor I won or placed in our competitions.  I was not surprised that Sir Ben from the Southeast was one of the finalists (1st runner-up), given both his looks and his event attendance during the year.  (I was very intentionally courting the title with this blog and some of my travels during my year leading up to the contest.  Ben and joe boy’s travels appear to my eye to be much of the same.)  Sir Jack was one of the contestants with whom I had almost no interaction during the weekend, only briefly during the Demos, so his win came completely out of my blind spot.  I look forward to seeing the scores; I know I did well and won’t be surprised if I was 2nd runner-up.

Later, I went out to Kok Bar.  Former Northwest Community Bootblack Dylan was blacking there and he noted that (given two international bootblack titleholders in the Northwest now) Northwest Boot Weekend will definitely be occurring again, in 2013.

One of the contest staff from Southwest region and I had had been nosing around each other all weekend and finally got to connect at Kok.  (My finger connected with his ass, my knee connected with his groin, his back connected to the wall, etc.  Special nod to one of Big Bad Jim’s workshops at Northern Exposure.)  When we got back to the hotel, I took him to my hotel bathroom (continuing my thread from MAL of that being the best place to play, at least after 2 am! ) and fisted him face-down on the bathroom floor while sitting on his back (among other positions).  Great play buddy, and I look forward to a rematch.  Maybe I can get to Phoenix in March for their contest?


I will post a separate entry on the Dore Alley fair later, just so I can get this already lengthy post out.


Monday, I got up, ate breakfast with Dan, and packed.  We ended up at the New Village Cafe for the third time during the weekend (I try to eat at a different restaurant every time on a trip, Starbucks excepted), because the Grubstake Diner turned out to be closed on Mondays.  Went to the Castro to cruise for the afternoon (fruitlessly), then came back to the hotel.  Got to talk to Mid-Atlantic Bootblack Raquel for a bit before heading to the train station in Oakland.  Train was over 90 minutes late leaving, and we were about an hour late getting back to Seattle when all was done.

Next Year

Next year, they are really trying to transform ILSb.  The event has been sold to Jeffrey Payne, and the organization itself is now a 501(c)3 non-profit, which may have the ability to open up a lot more pockets, especially to better supply the titleholder travel fund.

It will be moving back to Dallas, to Labor Day Weekend, which initially seems counter-intuitive vs. San Francisco on Dore Alley Weekend.  Attendance was probably higher in San Francisco because of Dore Alley weekend, making it easier for out-of-town titleholders and such to justify attending.  But to be sure, Dore Alley won’t notice a drop in attendance from LeatherSIR moving, maybe 100 people all told.

They are planning a vendor market (more than just Leather Masters from this year), and the top floor will be a play space, something notably missing this year from a “players” title weekend.  (IMsL had play spaces at the same hotel, so it was surprising that a “players” title like ILSb did not.)  Maybe I should volunteer to manage the fisting space for them next year.  Including trying out all the equipment, of course.  (I am actually serious about this: my experience with the Chez Poing parties and Equinox in Seattle certainly makes me qualified to do it, and to make sure that piece of the play spaces succeeds.)

I suspect CLAW’s success has had something to do with this revised plan.  The key thing here is that the contest itself is only ever a limited draw.  (Look at IML and Mid-Atlantic Leather to see how many come for the event but not the contest.)  The contest needs to be the event’s center, but there is a lot of money to be made from the other components of the event.  In San Francisco, Dore Alley filled that role, sending the money to other places than ILSb; in Dallas, they can keep that money within the event.  I think this can be good for the event and the titles in the long run.

I am definitely planning to be there next year.